The Modern Butlers’ Journal, January 2015, International Institute of Modern Butlers

  BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 11, issue 1

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

As Downton Abbey continues into its next season, helping spread kind views of our profession, the world continues to teeter from one outrageous calamity or excess to another, but life for most of us continues pretty well as normal. Certainly, for the Institute, we had a very successful year and the next one promises to see us expanding into new realms. We hope your year, too, will see the desired next steps being achieved for you and yours.

Butlers in the Media

A good article on the development of luxury resorts in the Maldives.

Strange, the ideas people have of butlers: One hotel is advertising on Craig’s List for a “butler,” whose duties are those of a night bellman. In another advertisement, a gentleman is promoting himself as a “butler” who  provides housesitting services.

Fascinating, the items of furniture on eBay that are either called “butler ____” or are connected with the profession—such as a butler’s bell pull or pulley.

This list is being extended on a regular basis as new items called “butler” are invented and  forced by contorted logic and/or tired marketing to ride upon the coattails of the profession. Here’s another example.

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012Let’s Talk about Spirits, Part 11

by Amer Vargas 

Amarula Cream 

Today, we travel to the beautiful country of South Africa to shed some light on the second-best-selling liqueur cream world-wide (Baileys being #1).

Amarula, photo by rob2001
Amarula, photo by rob2001

Amarula Cream is one of South Africa’s prides and there is a good reason for it: since its inception in 1989, this cream liqueur has multiplied its consumption and presence all over the world. Nowadays, while very popular in South Africa, of course, it is exported to more than a hundred countries, being especially popular in Brazil.

Marula fruit, photo by J.Riley
Marula fruit, photo by J.Riley

The main ingredient of Amarula is the marula fruit from the female marula tree. This exotic fruit grows only in the sub-equatorial plains of Africa and has a unique and delicious acidity and an interesting reputation: Marula has been recognized for centuries by many animals in the region for its powers of intoxication.

Marula tree, photo by Brett Hilton-Batber
Marula tree, photo by Brett Hilton-Batber

Many are the reports of animals becoming embarrassingly inebriated after eating the fruit—which has such a high sugar content that it ferments naturally in the sun, thereby producing alcohol.

From the end of January to March, the marula is hand-harvested. The fruit is crushed to separate the flesh and skin from the kernel, and then the skins are separated from the flesh. A “wine” is produced that is double distilled and aged in small oak casks for two years. The last step involves mixing the matured and distilled liquid with fresh cream.

Amarula, the Spirit of Africa, is commonly enjoyed on its own or “on the rocks,” but is also becoming increasingly popular as an ingredient in cocktails and even in some desserts.

Whichever presentation of Amarula you prefer, surround yourself with good friends and enjoy it while celebrating the beginning of this great 2015! Cheers!

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s Vice President for Europe and can be contacted via AmerVargas at

Of Butlers and Roses, Part 9 of 20

by GJ dePillis

The language of flowers – Florigraphy

On a practical note, whether organizing a gala, a formal banquet, or a private party, it always helps to use checklists, including for the floral arrangements. Several checklists can be found online  or in books, including the best-selling Butlers and Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals. 


Moving beyond the prosaic, creating floral arrangements using blossoms and blooms from your employer’s garden where it is sufficiently substantial, always adds color and talking points. But talking of talking points, it is not widely known that there existed a whole lexicon associated with the giving and receiving of flowers during the late 1800’s—of which only the wealthy and their staff understood the meaning. For example, if a flower were given by a man to a lady for whom he harbored silent adoration, she would signal her response by the way she received it. If she touched the blossom to her lips, she was silently saying “Yes!” If she plucked off a petal and tossed it aside, she was saying, “No!” If someone was presented with a sprig of parsley, the message was “May you win at whatever you are engaged in.” If flowers were presented with ivy wrapped around the bouquet or cascading out of it, the message was “I desire”; in this case, the presenter of the bouquet was understood to be asking for permission to approach more intimately.

Even in this day and age, flowers are used for many occasions, and so have accumulated meanings or associations thereby: for example, do not give white flowers to a person of Chinese heritage, as the color white is associated with death/funerals in their culture; roses are considered to be romantic, etc.

Here are some more meanings associated with flowers, according to Flora’s Lexicon of 1839, some of which you no doubt will recognize:

  • Ranunculus: “You are radiant with charms”
  • Daffodil: “Chivalry and regard”
  • Tulips: “Intense love” (derived from the tulip frenzy of the 1600’s that made men trade their worldly goods for certain tulip bulbs):
Variegated tulips
  1. Red tulips: “Declaration of love”
  2. Variegated (striped petals) tulips: “You have beautiful eyes”
  3. Tree tulips: “You will have fame and rural happiness”
  • Crocus: “Cheerful mirth, pleasure of hope, and renewed gladness”
  • Raspberry: “I apologize”
  • Rose: “Beauty, and love”
  1. Coral rose: “I admire your accomplishments”
  2. Lavender rose: “My pure love is genuine and sincere”
  3. Pink rose: “You are graceful, gentle and lovely”
  4. Red rose: “I desire and love you”
  5. Red and white rose: “My happy heart is yours”
  6. White rose: “I am worthy of you” (sometimes used for bridal love and to express the bliss of being united after a waiting period of restraint)
  7. Yellow rose: “I am so pleased we are friends.”

Today, nobody is so introverted and super discreet as to semaphore their messages via florigraphy before opening their mouth, but we still do have certain flowers we use for certain occasions.

Until next time, have a wonderful time speaking the language of flowers.

Ms. dePillis is a freelance contributor to the Journal who is based on the West Coast of the United States. She can be reached via depillis at

Jeff HermanConsulting the Silver Expert

by Jeffrey Herman

Q: What are the rough spots on my sterling that I can’t remove with silver polish?

A: Those black rough spots you feel on sterling (or other solid silver alloys) and can’t remove with silver polish is most likely corrosion. Place an ammonia-soaked cotton ball on the corrosion spot and it should be dissolved within 10 minutes. If not, do it again for ten minutes at a time until the corrosion is removed. You may need to use some silver polish on a Q-tip or cotton ball and “massage” the area very lightly until you bring up the shine to blend in with the surrounding area. There will probably be a shallow etched spot that remains under the corroded area.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or email jeff at


The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and skills of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resort,  spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts, & cruise ships around the world.

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Differentiating Between Private Residential Clubs, Fractionals, Destination Clubs & Condotels

It is hardly surprising buyers and media alike are confused by the different models available to guests for vacations when a good part of the industry is, too. Which makes the two upbeat and well-attended IMN symposiums in Orlando between April 18 and 20 most timely.

Like a few other Brits in the 1960s, we had a vacation home overlooking the Mediterranean Sea outside Cannes in the South of France. The three wonderful weeks spent there each year were somewhat marred by the headaches trying to find reliable people to rent to during the many months we were not in residence, and so offset costs. Trying to deal with the various elements of the French bureaucracy was another matter entirely. And frankly, one would have preferred to vacation elsewhere after a few years. We eventually sold the townhouse and reverted to what the majority of people do when they vacation: stay at a hotel or resort.

It would be several years before the Europeans popularized the concept of timeshares as a more organized way of enjoying vacations without having to spend them in hotels or dealing with the kind of headaches our family experienced. These timeshares of the 1970s sold in weekly increments and were the first widespread manifestation of this drive to find alternative models for vacationing. The next development (during the 1990s in Utah and Colorado) moved the concept beyond the sharing of one location for a limited time: by increasing services, amenities, and exclusivity (reducing project sizes from between 50 & 400+ down to 20-75), the new models raised the bar from 3+ star to 4+ while increasing prices tenfold. Since then, more vacationing models have been created and by 2005, sales were over $2 billion centered in North America), with the rest of the world slow to catch on: that is, until a conference in Dubai on shared ownership in Spring 2006 launched the industry in the Middle East.

The consensus amongst the speakers at both symposiums was that, when most players offer wonderful locations, buildings and appointments, the key differentiator becomes service. Yet (and this is of interest, obviously, to a butler), apart from the occasional mention of the “H” or “M” words(housekeepers & maids) and the “C” words (chefs and concierges), there was nary a mention of the “B” word (butler) by presenters. Butlers have had a thousand years to perfect the art of servicing others; they represent the pinnacle of discreet, anticipatory, and invisible service, and perhaps what is not realized, the modern version is highly attentive to ones needs and moods without feeling the slightest wish to sneer or make one uncomfortable.

One PRC did institute houseman service, a lower scale version, but the owners rejected the expense. It would be better, perhaps, to have offered proper butler service a la carte, rather than as a fixture in each private residence. For those developments appealing to the highest end of traveler, the butler is a logical choice, and at least two developments are moving in this direction.

Whether providing butler service or not, PRCs, DCs, and Condotels do need to work out how to create the level of service that will give the guest the experience of a lifetime. Honest-to-goodness feedback about what wows guests is not the gold this or the marble that, as amenities inexorably creep up to ever high levels, but the extra mile some caring employee went to provide stellar service. Certainly offering private concierges, F&B stocking before arrival, valet parking, transportation, etc., as most players do, is heading in the right direction, but these are a base line of service. Creativity in surprising guests with extra and discrete service will help avoid the trap of being just one more commodity in an unseeing market.

This third Condotel symposium by IMN was very well attended, showing interest is still very strong in the market; and the high turnout at the first PRC/DC symposium shows them to be growing and important markets. Both symposiums provided valuable information clarifying the current and future markets.

So what are these alternatives? Let’s define terms first:

Fractional interest projects, like Private Residence Clubs (PRCs) below, sell deeded ownership or shares in vacation homes, from 1/17th to 1/4 shares that allow the partial owners between three weeks and three months use of their property on a fixed, rotating calendar. Product quality and service/amenity levels are lower than PRCs, and prices tend to be under$1,000 per sq. ft. (average $630 per sq. ft.). Rental program options exist and owners can trade with other owners.

Private Residence Clubs (PRC) are targeted at higher-end customers willing to pay $1,000 per sq. ft. (for average 1,800 sq. ft. properties) or $250,000per share on average and looking for a 4-5* experience in multiple locations. They offer different membership classes as well as equity in the residences.

Destination Clubs (DCs) Over twenty DCs are in operation with an inventory of 700 homes shared currently by over 5,000 members with30-year memberships(generally) that confer the right to use any of a selection of properties, and provide for refunds of membership fees. Some of the clubs do provide equity and some panelists felt DCs not providing equity would see a slowdown until big brand names lent their credibility (and they are reticent to do so  until the grey area of lack of equity is resolved). The average residence is2,700 sq. ft. and valued at about $2.7 million. The average membership fee is $400,000, the lowest being $35,000 and the highest $3 million, with annual dues ranging from $5,000-$30,000. DCs have existed for the last decade, although the market heated up about four years ago with the arrival of Exclusive Resorts’ luxury DCs, which currently own over 50% of the market. DC’s exist based around themes such as wine, fly-fishing, polo,ranch life, and yachts.

Hotel condominiums/condotels. First appearing in the 1970s, these lost their popularity with the Tax Reform Act of 1986, but have come to the fore again.Individual buyers own and stay in them from one-to-two months a year and then have the option (usually exercised) of putting them into a pool for the hotel to rent (and also maintain) for the balance of the year. The owners share in the revenues and so offset their costs while having access to the amenities and services of the hotel when they are in residence.

Typical purchase costs are from the several hundred thousand to several million. Examples include Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman and The Setai in Miami. Condotels are popular with lenders and developers because they provide up front operating funds and shift some of the risk to the owners/their lenders, as well as allowing higher sales prices in view of the amenities offered and the rental program. One downside is the development hotel, residential, condo, finance equity participation, and mortgage loan, all have to be married into a single transaction called a condotel-one of the reasons that lawyers are recommended as early participants in developing condotels. The rental program is considered a security, for instance, requiring compliance with SEC regulations.

Hotel residences are like hotel condos but there is no rental pool and they tend to have their own entrance. The St Regis-branded Residence properties in New York, Fort Lauderdale, and San Francisco are good examples, as are Four Seasons Miami and San Francisco, Ritz Carlton in Boston, NYC and various locations in Florida, and the Breakers in Palm Beach. Purchase costs run up to about $8 million.

Mixed-use buildings incorporate hotel residences and/or condotels into luxury hotels with retail. Examples include Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York, Chicago, and Toronto. Fractional hotels are a subset, a mix of condotels and fractional residence ownership (showing how creative people can be), whereby an investor (not a politically correct word but a reality as most sales in the condotel market were to investors wanting to make a quick buck) owns a portion of one or more condo suites, can use it/them according to his share, and can participate in the rental program to generate revenue.

How Significant Are These Markets?

Ragatz Associates has identified just over 250 fractional interest projects/PRCs (all in North American continent and the Caribbean, with three-quarters in the USA and over 25% in Colorado, Florida, and California). Of these, over half are in active sales and the rest sold out for a total of $2.1 billion in sales volume during 2006 (of which only 3% were resales, and 50% were for PRCs, which experienced a 92% growth). All of the 21 DCs are in active sales.

As of October 2006, there were 268 condo hotel projects and over 30,000condo units and 70,000 private residences being developed within hotels.

There were some panelists at the symposiums who felt strongly that these vehicles were used as practical real-estate investments that delivered a desirable lifestyle, and those who said that the investment was of no concern, only the lifestyle and traveling/vacationing in style. The differences seem to devolve into the older crowd of baby boomers looking for the benefits of an investment at fractionals /PRCs / condotels, and the younger crowd wanting a good time at DCs, but there is too much crossover between the two groups for an   over simplification to be made.

Whichever group was considered, the idea seemed prevalent that the breadwinners generally work all the time anyway, including on vacations. PRCs and DCs allow them to take extra “holiday” time in exotic locations to bond with their families, while still keeping the work fires burning.

Approximately 40,000 individuals/families have bought into PRCs, DC’s and fractionals, representing 1% of the market that is considered to be able financially to invest in shared-ownership real estate (the criterion being an income of $200,000 and net worth of $1 million). Baby boomers are a key market, of which there are 10 million in the US and Europe. Surveys by Ragatz Associates of this market shows growing awareness of and interest in these entities.

Looking to the Future

Destination Clubs

Following the Tanner & Haley implosion and bankruptcy in the DC market last year, the key concerns for potential buyers are transparency as well as performance. Other concerns include preferring the greater anonymity, independence, and privacy that staying at hotels provides. However, an industry association has been formed and is hard at work promoting best practices, consumer protection (of which there is none currently), and a regulatory framework. The early mistakes by Tanner & Haley, which included guarantees of 100% deposit refunds and 100% availability anytime anywhere, undercharging fees and dues, leasing rather than owning its properties (70% of them), and faulty investments, have been recognized and corrected by other players. As a result of mergers and acquisitions, there are fewer, larger, and stronger DCs now operating on third generation business models. The Helium Report estimates continued consolidation, with 1,500 new DC members and about 300 new homes added to inventory through 2007.


The residential market slowdown and sub-prime excesses and implosion are problematic for condotels, coupled with the predominance (80%) of the condotel sales last year being to investors, many of who bought at pre-construction prices and flipped early enough while the remainder, now that closing time has come, don’t want to carry the mortgage and are looking for ways out of their investments-even to the point of filing class action suits against developers. So while copious funds are chasing condotels today as institutional investors switch from conversions to condotels (and at a time when investors have the lowest expected ROI in history), the last few months have seen a shift for bankers in the element of “risk” associated with such sales, perhaps also driven by returns at the low end of expectations. Developers and banks alike are looking for buyers who want to use the condo, primarily baby boomers looking for a second home, so they are adding kitchens and demanding 20% down. This is a change of tune compared with a keynote speaker at the 2005 Condotel symposium who announced that thecondotel market would line everyone’s pockets.

Investors who paid cash have been lucky to see a 0.8% return. In the fall of 2006, a Ft. Lauderdale beachfront property reached 60% presales at $1,200 a sq. ft. Then suddenly sales dried up completely. A condotel next door that had been completed the year before had owners trying to sell their units. They had bought at $1,200 a foot, and were now asking $825. Overall, the market is showing a 20% drop in price points to garner sales.

Some projects have not made pre-sales, so won’t come out of the ground. There have been some failures of condotels, which represent a partnership between the flag, operator, and owners. The main cause of failure is when an operator is money motivated rather than service oriented, and so forgets the owners are also partners. Five projects filed for bankruptcy in the greater Miami area alone in March 2007, and some condotel units are being changed to hotel operations.

Despite these kind of statistics, and taking liberties with Mark Twain, an early message heard at the symposium was “any rumors of condotel deaths are greatly exaggerated.” There is a glut of projects, to be sure, but baby boomers represent a strong market in environments where they can live part time. And with a weak dollar, investors from abroad are also eyeing excellent real estate values in the US.

Some panelists feel that condotels are returning to normalcy now, apparently, driven by the 4-5 star developments. It is the 3-star resorts jumping onto the bandwagon that are in trouble as the flip-investors seem to have focused on these as investments as opposed to the class of people who were buying into the lifestyle and so wanting to travel to and use their units.

While some panelists said the condotel market has matured, others say it is actually changing rapidly. Many condotels have yet to open and so no track record is available and we have yet to see any real industry benchmarks. With more cash on the table from condotel owners, developers have built more condotels than the market can easily absorb, especially with the residential market slowing down, buyers being more educated on condotels, brands becoming more sophisticated and wary, and condotels being complicated to market and operate. The economic reality of how they operate will become known. As one panelist put it, “Hiccups will be taken to court and smarter ways will be worked out. Investors may well be disappointed, but these condotels are not meant to be investments, rather lifestyles. There are ramp ups and many unknowns that will be sorted out as we move ahead.”

On the question of whether brands are needed, they certainly are beneficial, but a competent management team able to analyze the market for what attracts people to the area and how to differentiate their property and sell it is more important.

Published May 2007 on Hotel Business Review and

Published Articles

To Market! To Market To Buy! Condo Hotels Overview

While condo hotels and variations thereof in the fractional ownership market are expanding in brand affiliation, geographical offerings and emerging residence alternatives such as private residence clubs and deeded destination clubs, the plethora of choices has necessitated ongoing educational seminars to offer advice to developers, financiers, prospective owners and managers and service providers to this niche industry. Information Management Network (“IMN”) offered its biannual symposium 2nd Annual Florida Symposium on Financing, Developing & Operating Condo Hotels at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood, Florida May 22-23.

The two-day conference attracted more than 650 attendees from the national and international sectors and featured practical working sessions for participants attending the moderated panels and presentations. The Hollywood conference featured 28 sessions including specialized programming for New/Prospective Owners, Small Property Owners, In-Depth Regional Market Roundtables; Unit Rental Management, Sales Compliance.

Workshop Leader for the Condo 101 Panel and Session Chair for the Amenities agenda, David J. Schwartz, managing principal, The Management Consortium, Inc. Hospitality Advisory Services based right there in Hollywood comments: “I grew up in the business,” Schwartz notes, “When I was 8, I handed out towels at the pool deck to people like Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. My family’s background was resort hotels. This is the kind of business you love or hate because it’s 24/7. My circle included many apartment and Condominium developers who never did hotels. It was only natural that I became an Advisor to them on Condo Hotel development.”

Schwartz discusses some basic differences between condo hotels and hotels: “With condo hotels, you’re dealing with guests and owners. Owners believe they can go any place, do whatever they want, and at no extra charge-They think they own it allŠThus the average hotel manager is not equipped to deal with this and often fail. In fact, in Florida you must have a CAM(Community Association Management license. Some will have separate buildings for the condo portion and the hotel.”

Regarding branding, Schwartz continues: “Some areas like South Beach, Florida are considered brands unto themselves. Most of South Beach hotels are not branded and have their own cachet People from certain walks of life identify with that. In this case, the area becomes the brand. Adding a hotel brand on top of that may or may not give the hotel saleability. Banks believe hotel brands lend saleability and thus be a good loan candidate.

Schwartz recalls: “Back in the late 90s when I was part of a real estate and hospitality group based in NYC, I would see the same people flying down to Florida every Fri night and flying back up Monday morning. If I am coming down to Florida a lot and spending $250 a night on a hotel, while pulling in $.5 million on Wall Street, I can buy a condo (which can be the very same room) and not only have a place to stay but also own something that appreciates in value… The people who buy these things are not stupid.. They know the management company will rent it out when you’re not there.”

On the subject of brands, Schwartz comments: “Brands have a large guest data base and sophisticated reservation systems. The brand is the flag- the identity of the project. Some won’t give you the right to their brand without hiring their company to manage the site. (You can also hire a third party to manage your property or do it yourself.) Flags cost a lot of money, and therein lie some of the problems: PIP (property improvement program)‹you have to be able to afford that flag. The paradox is: brands are going to cost you as a developer, and you have to determine if the brand will be profitable after you do your PIP to bring it up to brand standards. Most condo developers look to sell out a project and this is a way, they believe they can have an enhanced product and sell it faster. With hard contracts, the bank will give the funding. Speed is of the essence since you, as the developer, have your money tied up in stages. You want to work with OPMs (Other People’s Money). The objective is to get the development 40-50% sold out.”

On the subject of sales, Schwartz notes: “Most Condominium Developers only care about selling units…not about the running of the hotel condo. Hotels are most often apartments with hotel amenities.” Schwartz adds that in Miami Beach owners did indeed sell hotel rooms as opposed to apartments in the 40s, following a pattern that still is in vogue in Latin America and Europe. SEC regulations in the USA changed that. Schwartz notes: “The successful hotel brand will always yield a bigger market for renting hotel rooms…it is chic to say you have an apartment at The Ritz Carlton…”, Schwartz points out. “Along with that, you have a definitive high level of FF&E and services.”

When it comes to service, Schwartz is more guarded: “Five-star service: Everybody claims that’s what they are presenting but nobody knows what that service involves. At the upper levels of service, there is a greater proportion of staff to guest ratio, and only at that high level do brands substantially invest in training.”

Service is a part of branding, and Schwartz notes brands help drive sales. “Buyers don’t know from standards. They invest in a name, e.g., the Trump brand draws. The Trump organization does its own standards enforcement.” Schwartz explains, “That’s when the brand is actually important: to make money.”

There are different branding arrangements as well. Schwartz says: “In Florida and some other states, you can be a CHA (the highest designation of hotel training) but that doesn’t mean you can manage a condo hotel. One of the necessary requirements in Florida is CAM (Community Association Manager’s) license in Florida. Even if you were from The Pierre in NYC, it doesn’t mean you are licensed to run a condo hotel.” Schwartz notes requirements vary but that most training is through experience. “It’s a matter of licensing more companies and practicing good managememt,” Schwartz comments.

You can brand your own management; buy the brand and have a third party use their company management or use the brand’s management company. The brand’s property management company often puts investment rights of its brand and a percentage of ownership into the management contract. Schwartz believes management companies today should share some of the risk as well as the rewards.

Additionally, owners need to find something unique to sell. The typical condo hotel needs to have at least a kitchenette “even to make a cup of coffee in AM or nuke a corn muffin,” says Schwartz.

The condo hotel industry segment as we know it today is still experimental in many ways. “History is still being written in all these things…all the answers are not there yet but will unfold as more and more hotel properties come aboard.”

Session Chair for the Private Residences, David M. Disick, Esq., president of David M. Disick & Associates capital raising and business planning for development, explained the difference between condo hotels and private residence clubs (PRCs):

“The PRC is a higher, upscale form of fractional ownership and usually single site… I’ve spent time researching city clubs and the club industry in America at the high end resort development. PRCs offer the same real use of home ownership at a fraction of the price. Options are non equity; indirect equity.”

Disick points out: “Non-equity and indirect equity are generally multi-site clubs of single family homes, but there is no individual fractional fee simple real estate interest.”

Disick has created an alternative ownership structure with Elysian Deeded Destination Club. Owner-Members own a fractional fee, simple real estate interest in the vacation home of their choice with priority use rights in that home plus use rights throughout the network. Thus, Owner-Members can have all the advantages of individual real estate ownership such as mortgage financing leverage, ability to sell their interest on the open market through real estate brokers whenever and to whomever they wish and benefits of potential real estate appreciation without feeling tied down to only one vacation property.

Moreover, under Disick’s structure where acquisition of homes is phased according to membership sales, investors have secure hard asset values in the cost of the real estate.”

Disick says, “There are interesting synergies between Private Residence Clubs and Deeded Destination Clubs on the one hand and the hotel condo upscale products as they appear to investment motivation.” Disick notes with regard to the PRC and Deeded Destination Clubs: “While people want it to appreciate, it’s really a personal use product.” All options to residential alternatives are quickly becoming a mega segment which Disick believes “if you market them together, there will be economies of scale and management.”

Disick illustrates the phenomenon of a return to urban sites as competitive purchase options for suburbanites and/or business clients. “DC and NY…are a reflection of the current lifestyle buzz,” he says. “They’re good for business or suburbanites’ desire to eat drink and be merry on the weekends.”

As a Panel participant on the financing involved in the condo marketplace, Disick notes: “We need to demystify the business of raising money. Everyone asks, “How do you raise money?” I reply: “Hotels sell rooms, airlines sell travel; banks sell money. Rather than genuflect before the authority figure, the developer is responsible for generating the confidence of the capital sources in his commitment to the project and his business plan.”

Disick refers to his recent publication, “The Art and Science of Raising Capital for Developers” and recommends: “As an art, commit your passion for your deal. With the science, anticipate every possible thing that might go wrong. Show this to investor. Lay out the plan in detail.” Attendees’ interests centered around the exploration of financing options, development alternatives, security concerns and sales and marketing recommendations.

Disick illustrates that versus the 50% traditional costs of sales and marketing for the timeshare segment, the Deeded Destination Club varies between approximately 10% for a club of single-family residences or up to 15-20% for a multi-unit project.

Disick also illustrates the importance of the Relationship sales. Disick advises: When you learn the ins and outs of the client’s psyche, you discover what they are looking for…there’s a dynamic established that can be cultivated.” Disick has many strategies for creating a sense of urgency after establishing the client bond, and he advises those interested in this aspect of hospitality services to keep themselves apprised of opportunities by attending and conducting seminars such as the May Florida event.

Disick also believes the subject of service is the distinguishing characteristic that complements upscale properties. “Generate a feeling of belonging” for the owner. This can vary from airport pickup to specific family celebrations and commemorative Tiffany personalized gifts or monogrammed skis/golf bags, or choosing to devote a portion of profits to charity.

The segue to out of the box thinking was actually a programmed topic to conclude IMN’s two-day seminar, and Steven Ferry, Founder and Chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers was one of the panelists. Commenting on the panel, and previous presentations, Ferry notes that everyone is trying to articulate the concept of “home” for this niche of the hospitality industry. Ferry says, “It should be a slam dunk!” Of course, the butler concept is not a top-of-mind awareness in the USA, and seems to be somewhat alien to the pragmatic outlook of Americans. However, for those who regard this aspect of service conducive to the cultivation of the wow factor and the sizzle in service, the butler concept seems consistent with the fact that investors in this aspect of hospitality are investing, often, in second “homes” as well as in a security/investment.

For Ferry, marble baths and luxurious appointments are not the essence of the upscale sector; they’re expected. “Service is private,” and such amenities as spa, personal treatments and skills a butler brings occur within the personal space, “en suite”. “Butlers have what it takes for the wow factor,” quips Ferry. “They create the home within the hospitality environment. At the international level, butler service is a traditional part of cultures; it’s only in the USA it needs to be cultivated as a non-intrusive component to the upscale residential sector.”

As residential alternatives expand and investor expectations become more defined, the emergence of more sophisticated product and service offerings will guarantee a better quality of life as well as a more clearly defined differentiation of the client experience.

Maureen Herron

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Putting the Sizzle into Condotels – A Brand New & Growing Venue For Butlers

The symposium on condo hotels in Hollywood, Florida on 22 and 23 May, 2006 was a good opportunity to take the pulse of the industry, make useful contacts, and also educate key players on the value butlers bring to high-end condo hotels. In attendance from our industry were the Executive Director of the International Institute of Modern Butlers, the Head Butler of The Cloister and the Front of the House Manager of The Lodge, both prestigious properties off the coast of Georgia, USA.

To recap, condohotels are basically condominiums in or connected to hotels that allow owners access to the resources of the hotel, including management of their condominiums.*

Condos in hotels are not all the same. Residential units in condotels are lived in by the owner; others limit the amount of time owners may live in their units, expecting them to allow their units to be rented out by the hotel. Owners like the idea, because they generally only want to use their condos occasionally, and the rental income (shared by owner and hotel) offsets or covers the cost of their unit: all of which adds up to these units being viewed as investments and second/vacation homes. The downside to these rental units is that owners may not furnish or decide on the décor of these units, although they are usually allowed to store on site and then use personal items such as portraits when they are in residence. Hoteliers like condotels because they make it easier to acquire financing for development, as well as providing a healthy income stream year round.

Almost half of the condotels on the market or under construction in the US are ocean front, the rest mainly in urban areas, casinos and theme parks. Other markets where condotels are expanding significantly are the Middle East, China, and South America. One developer alone in Brazil has fifty condotels. While condotels began to appear in Europe and London in the Seventies, the first on record appears to have been in Miami Beach during the 1940s.

So what does this all have to do with butlers? Rather a lot, actually. Owners pay anything from about $300,000 to $25 million for these properties. But no calculator can create or measure their true value because what the owners value is the lifestyle their condotel offers them. Hoteliers have to deliver experience, not just four walls. As with any effective marketing, it is the sizzle that sells, not the steak. The sizzle in condotels is not really the marble baths with gold-plated fixtures, as these kind of amenities are almost the baseline of expectation. The sizzle includes the spa, restaurants, gym on or off site, the theaters, etc. But even these are also part of the basic expectation, otherwise the owners would not have been looking in that particular area for a condotel.

No, what guests and owners want more than anything else (as mentioned by a few speakers at the symposium) is to be pampered. They want to be wowed inside and outside their suites. Speakers mentioned maid and even concierge service as examples of pampering. Only one person mentioned the “B” word. That is because perhaps the majority of condotels are not in the five-star range that would require butler service. As another speaker pointed out, concierge service speaks of a 4-4.5-star service. And because we have yet as a profession to make inroads into the condotel market, most people, even in five-star environments, have not made the connection between pampering and butlers. To be sure, concierges pamper and offer marvelous service, but they are limited to front-of-the-house activities. They rarely do anything in guest or owner units short of delivering items or perhaps taking care of emergencies for absentee owners.

I think we have to recognize that as butlers, we are Johnny-come-latelies in the hospitality environment. We have to keep talking up the sizzle for high-end hotel and condotel owners, developers, and managers, or they will continue to think in terms of the more limited concierge and maid services.

Well, the good news is that we spread the sizzle a bit through one-on-one chats with developers, owners, and managers, as well as during the final panel presentation. We now have interest from quite a few large and boutique projects in the US, Caribbean, and China.

We would like to help you do the same. If you see possibilities for introducing butler service into a luxury condotel (or even hotel) being built or completed in your area, please contact us so we can assist you in presenting the concept to the owners, developers, or managers.

There is no doubt in my mind that condotels represent a huge market (halfway between private residence butling and hotel butling and combining the benefits of both) that only needs a few butlers boldly going where no butler has gone before to blossom into a whole new field of employment for our ranks!

* As a note, condos in America are owned residences sharing the same building and management, with common areas and gardens cared for by the management company. In England, these are known as “flats” or “apartments,” but in the US, those terms are used only in connection with rental units.

This article also appeared in the 16 June 2006 issue of